Sunday, 30 April 2017

Concert Review: "Hans Zimmer Revealed" (2017).

"Confession time!!! The mere idea of playing a Live Tour terrifies me beyond belief... A number of people used to ask me why I had never done a full tour - and the honest truth was because of stage fright. As I look out from the stage at everybody, I still fell like I am standing stark naked under a spotlight, on the very coldest night of the year... I am vulnerable. I am petrified... but you cannot have fear rule your life, or indeed dictate or prevent your actions. Just like anyone else I have to shake it off, look you in the eyes, and get on with it." Mr. Zimmer has certainly done that and beyond with his spectacular Hans Zimmer Revealed (2017) concert. I was honoured to attend the concert and meet Mr. Zimmer himself. I also got to take a photo with the legend and get a concert programme personally signed by him.

Every aspect of the event was worth every penny and second as it packed more than enough entertainment value to live up to its ambition. Out of all the concerts I have attended, Mr. Zimmer and his incredible ensemble have given me the greatest concert experience I have ever witnessed. It is the greatest film concert ever witnessed – and maybe the best film concert, period. It was pure film nirvana. The concert was a masterful one, one that will appeal to both movie lovers and new fans alike. It's obvious, but the concert gives us Hans Zimmer in a fresh way. The concert reinvigorates an unappreciated genre with an extraordinary touch.

For the concert, Mr. Zimmer remarked: "Music has the power to move people, to affect them in a way that is visceral. It can transcend politics, bring cultures together, and inspire people to learn and take action. If my musical scores can contribute in some way to effecting change, I will have accomplished an important personal goal." As well as "I want everything I do to be about love. We live in a day of instant communication. I get to see and read from people whose hearts I touch through music - and that is my greatest joy." This concert does indeed delivers a close-up of Mr. Zimmer and his ensemble doing something they clearly love. Mr. Zimmer and his ensemble are the kind of band that prove even an average performance by them isn't boring. "Creating breakthrough music is about collaboration. It's about hearing others and developing a sound that tells tells the story of many and expresses the emotions of each one of us." Each of Mr. Zimmer's ensemble has done exactly that. Each brought their unique sounds to the show. Which includes the talents of Nick Glennie-Smith, Yolanda Charles, Aicha Djidelli, Pedro Eustache, Guthrie Govan, Tina Guo, Gary Kettel, Lebo M, Holly Madge, Nile Marr, Steve Mazzaro, Andy Page, Andy Pask, Satnam Singh Ramgotra, Refi, Molly Rogers, Czarina Russell, Nathan Stornetta and Leah Zeger. Mr. Zimmer commented that "Not all films we score are recorded with full orchestras; often, as in the case of 12 Years a Slave, the music involves an intimate group of musicians in a small room creating the score in an organic, natural way..." And boy was I able to sense the natural camaraderie amongst all of them. Each may have blown us away with their amazing solos, but their power could not be matched when they played together.

Mr. Zimmer's musical highlights - Driving Miss DaisyCrimson TideGladiatorThe Da Vinci CodeThe Lion KingTrue RomanceRain ManThelma and LouiseMan of SteelThe Thin Red LineThe Dark KnightInterstellar and Inception - still astound. Everyone in the auditorium and I knew that this was going to be an experience that we will never forget and cherish for the rest of our lives. Throughout the entire performance, the audience and I were constantly cheering and yelling "Yeah!", "Oh my God!" and "Awesome!" There was a dazzling array of talent on display here, and the event surely has its memorable moments. This was truly an event where people from all over Auckland from different ethic and social backgrounds were brought together by music. In addition, I banged my head and tapped my foot throughout the performance to my favourite pieces. I was overwhelmed beyond imagination by the sheer power of Mr. Zimmer and his ensemble. Some people may complain about the ear-deafening noise, but in the words of Sir Ridley Scott: "I don't really like music quiet, I don't like it when people say: You shouldn't hear the music in a movie, that's total bullshit." 

The concert is our best insight to a legendary giant who has given us some of the greatest contribution to cinema. This labour of love, one of the most awe-inspiring performances, presents and continues to preserve the immense body of work that prevails in the pop culture zeitgeist for the past few decades and will continue to do so for many years to come. Mr. Zimmer said: "Movies' genres have become clichés; they are either action, drama, or comedy. You don't frequently see movies that are provocative. I think films that force the audience to experience something new are the most important. The music helps push those limits." And as I said to Mr. Zimmer, it was an honour to meet him and thanked him for the performance and his contribution to cinema. Finally, note to self: Definitely need to go to more film concerts.

Simon says Hans Zimmer Revealed receives:

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Film Review: "Before I Wake" (2016).

"Fear your dreams" in Before I Wake. This supernatural dark fantasy horror film directed by Mike Flanagan, and written by Flanagan and Jeff Howard. Jessie and Mark decide to take in a sweet and loving 8-year-old boy, Cody. Unbeknownst to them, Cody is terrified of falling asleep. At first, they assume his previous unstable homes caused his aversion to sleep, but soon discover why: Cody's dreams manifest in reality as he sleeps. In one moment they experience the incredible wonder of Cody's imagination, and in the next, the horrific nature of his night terrors. To save their new family, Jessie and Mark embark on a dangerous hunt to uncover the truth behind Cody's nightmares.

In early September 2013, it was announced that Flanagan was set to direct a horror film called Somnia that he co-wrote with Howard. By early November, Kate Bosworth, Thomas Jane, Jacob Tremblay, Annabeth Gish, and Dash Mihok were cast. At the same time, principal photography commenced, and wrapped in mid December. Filming took place throughout Alabama. In early April 2014, Relativity Media acquired the US distribution rights to the film. In March 2015, the title was changed to Before I Wake, apparently over Flanagan's objections. The film was originally scheduled to be released on May 8, 2015, but was pushed back to September 25, 2015, and later pulled from the schedule due to the company's filing for bankruptcy. The film was rescheduled to April 8, 2016, and then rescheduled to September 9, 2016. It was then pulled from the schedule. In December 2017, it was revealed that Netflix had obtained United States rights to the film from Relativity Media, thus owning worldwide rights. Netflix released the film in the U.S. on January 5, 2018.

The film stars Bosworth, Jane, Tremblay, Gish, and Mihok. Ultimately, though, it is the characters that count. Flanagan and his cast gave emotional resonance to the story of a charming family undone by unexplained forces; and his actors go a long way in portraying this with honesty.

With an emphasis on dread over gore and an ending that leaves the door wide open for follow-ups, Before I Wake could be just the first spine-tingling chapter in a new franchise for discerning horror fans. It's a smarter-than-average nightmares-come-to-life movie that speaks to a couple of widespread anxieties-one topical, the other sadly timeless. Horror fans shouldn't miss the film; films as creepy as this one don't come along too often. The film does more to a familiar premise than most standard-issue scary movies out there. A clever storyline keeps the pace, although it could be argued the film had too many storylines going for its running time. The final product is a beautifully shot and wonderful acted entry in the never-ending pool of niche horror movies looking to shock, scare, and unnerve. It was actually awesome, even though I didn't have any expectations for it at all. I'm happy to tell you that this one was well thought-out with some great performances.

Simon says Before I Wake receives:

Also, see my review for Ouija: Origin of Evil.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Film Review: "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" (2017).

"You only get one chance to save the galaxy twice." So here comes Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. This superhero film based on the titular Marvel Comics superhero team, written and directed by James Gunn and produced by Marvel Studios. It is the sequel to 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy and the fifteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film continues the team's adventures as they traverse the outer reaches of the cosmos. The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill's true parentage.

At the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con International, a sequel was officially announced a before the theatrical release of the first film, with a July 2017 release date. Gunn's and the cast were conformed to return in July 2014 October 2014. During the writing process, Gunn proposed the idea of Ego the Living Planet being Star-Lord's father. Unfortunately, Marvel did not have the rights to Ego, the rights were owned by 20th Century Fox. Since Gunn did not have any other characters in mind for Star-Lord's father, he had to ask Fox if he could use the character. Fortunately, Fox agreed to let Marvel have Ego, in return for Fox having more creative freedom regarding the character of Negasonic Teenage Warhead for Deadpool (2016). In addition, in May 2015, Gunn wanted to include the characters of Mantis and Adam Warlock. Ultimately, the latter was removed from the final draft. In June, the title of the film was confirmed to be Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. In October, Pom Klementieff was cast as Mantis, and Matthew McConaughey was offered the role of Ego, but he eventually passed on the role. Gary Oldman, Viggo Mortensen, Christoph Waltz, Christopher Plummer, Max von Sydow, and Liam Neeson were considered for the role before Kurt Russell entered negotiations. Principal photography began in February 2016 at Pinewood Atlanta Studios in Fayette County, Georgia, and wrapped in June 2016. This was the first film to utilise the RED WEAPON 8K digital camera. It is the digital equivalent to VistaVision, a higher definition 35mm format developed in the 1950s. At San Diego Comic-Con 2016, Russell and Debicki were confirmed for the roles of Ego and Ayesha. Sylvester Stallone was also confirmed to be in the film. In January 2017, Gunn stated that the film contains five mid- and post-credits scenes, all of which were written and directed by him.

Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan and Sean Gunn reprised their roles. The film also stars Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Chris Sullivan, Sylvester Stallone, and Kurt Russell. The performances in this film, new and old, did anything but kill the film thanks to the cast's impressive collective charisma. However, the film's stand-out performance was from none other than Rooker who made Yondu everybody's new favourite character.

It may not live up to its unexpected predecessor, but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 still offers plenty of the humour and high-stakes action that fans have come to expect. In the end, the film delivers the goods - action, otherworldly adventure and humour, of course.

Simons says Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 receives:

Also, see my review for Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Film Review: "Berlin Syndrome" (2017).

Variety called Berlin Syndrome "Nerve-shredding." This Australian-French psychological thriller film directed by Cate Shortland, adapted by Shaun Grant, and based on the novel of the same name by Melanie Joosten. The film centres on a disturbed teacher who holds a young photographer captive in his Berlin apartment after bringing her home for a night of romance.

Joosten's debut novel won her the 'Kathleen Mitchell Award for Young Writers' and listed her as one of the 'Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Novelist 2012'. The novel was inspired by Joosten's visit to Berlin when she was backpacking Europe solo at the age of twenty-two. By May 2015, Teresa Palmer and Max Riemelt were cast in an adaptation of Joosten's novel, with Shortland directing and Grant penning the adaptation. Riemelt was chosen from a shortlist of 10 male actors; Shortland felt he best portrayed the lack of shame of a true sociopath. Two weeks prior to filming, Palmer and Riemelt stayed together in a small apartment similar to the one on the set. Palmer described her participation on the project as "one of the most transformational experiences" of her life, as well as "the most liberating film experience" of her career. In September, principal photography commenced, and took place in Berlin, Germany and Melbourne, Australia. The Melbourne production design team and art department recreated Andi's apartment on a Docklands sound stage based on the original apartment in Berlin. The majority of scenes in the apartment were shot on that set in Melbourne. The set had working water, gas, and electricity plus a fake wall and greenscreens for the neighbouring building. The apartment is based on a real one, in the Prenzlauer Berg neighbourhood of Berlin. Shortland commented: "It was a 50- or 60-apartment building with [only] about eight apartments occupied. But all of our young people are flocking there. It's kind of a beautiful idea, wanting to get out and explore, and hoping the artistic and cultural dynamic of the city will rub off on you. It's a place with a lot of community feeling, but in winter it's also an incredibly monstrous, grey, miserable place."

The film stars Teresa Palmer and Max Riemelt. Overall, it's a decent shot at a tall target, but real credit is due the lead actors, with Palmer expanding beyond the already considerable range she's previously shown with an exceedingly dimensional performance in a role that calls for running the gamut, and Riemelt always convincing even if he becomes sickening. Palmer and Riemelt's textured performances turn outrageous circumstances into a tense and surprisingly credible survival tale.

Led by incredible work from Palmer and Riemelt, Berlin Syndrome makes for an unforgettably harrowing—and undeniably fascinating—experience. The film is one of the most impressive piece of filmmaking I've seen in 2017. It is a film of tiny little miracles, it is equally tender and chilling. We are left with a film that manages a degree of humanity in the most unpromising circumstances. It is a substantial achievement.

Simon says Berlin Syndrome receives:

Also, see my review for Lore.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Film Review: "The Fate of the Furious" (2017).

"Family will be broken" in The Fate of the Furious. This action film directed by F. Gary Gray and written by Chris Morgan. It is the sequel to 2015's Furious 7, and the eighth installment in The Fast and the Furious franchise. Dom encounters a mysterious woman, Cipher, who gets him involved in the world of terrorism. The crew has to reunite to stop Cipher and save the man who brought them together as a family.

In March 2015, plans for an eighth installment were first announced when Vin Diesel appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live!. Preparations for the film began immediately after the release of Furious 7, with Diesel, Morgan and producer Neal H. Moritz returning to star, write and produce. At the 2015 CinemaCon in Las Vegas, Diesel announced the film for an April 14, 2017 release date. In July 2015, Moritz said that Walker's character, Brian O'Conner, would not appear in the film, following Walker's untimely death on November 30, 2013. In addition, Moritz said that the film would shift the focus of the franchise from a series of heist films to a spy caper, following a similar change in focus in Fast Five (2011). In September 2015, Diesel stated that the script had almost been completed, and expressed interest in Rob Cohen, who directed the first film, to direct the eighth installment. In mid October, Diesel announced on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon that Gray would direct. Other directors considered were Louis Leterrier, William Eubank, and Adam Wingard. By mid March 2016, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Elsa Pataky, Kurt Russell returned to reprise their roles, with Charlize Theron, Kristofer Hivju, Scott Eastwood, and Helen Mirren as new additions. At the same time, principal photography commenced, under the initial title Fast 8, and took place in Mývatn, Havana, Atlanta, Cleveland and New York City. In December 2016, the film was retitled The Fate of the Furious.

The film stars Diesel, Johnson, Rodriguez, Gibson, Bridges, Emmanuel, Pataky, Russell, Statham, Eastwood, Theron, Hivju, and Mirren. Despite their best efforts and their likability, the performances given by the cast, and the cast themselves, are nothing but cliched and tiresome.

Despite the high-octane humor and terrific action scenes, The Fate of the Furious fails to further build upon the winning blockbuster formula that made Fast 5 and Furious 7 critical and commercial successes. Offering more of the high-octane action that the series is famous for, the film is easily the most ridiculous blockbuster of 2017 thus far; and also one of the least watchable. How you feel about the film and the franchise is a matter of perspective. But at this point, the franchise exists purely to showcase how idiotically over-the-top action sequences can become when annoyances like gravity are tossed to the side. Some of the action sequences are insane. No, really. Absurd, impossible, physics defying, triage-required stuff. No matter. That's the foolish rush of a franchise that must go faster and faster and furiouser and furiouser.

Simon says The Fate of the Furious receives:

Also, see my review for Straight Outta Compton and Furious 7.